Early Christian pilgrim flask with St. Menas
Ampulla of Saint Menas, a late-third-century Egyptian Roman soldier who was martyred for his Christian faith. From the collection of Prof. Dilling, acquired in the early 1900s.
late 5th century–mid 7th century A.D.
Abu Mena, Egypt
Flat bottle with circular body, short neck and two handles which were used by the pilgrims as loops for a string, to suspend the flask around one's neck.
One side shows Saint Menas as Orans en face, riding a horse, a palm frond before. On the opposite side, inscription "EYΛ | OΓIA" (="Eulogia", i.e. blessing) within a double raised border, divided by two raised lines.
Height 90 mm, width 70 mm
One handle and small part of neck missing, otherwise very well preserved. The relief showing Saint Menas is preserved much better than shown by the picture.
For the diverse variants of these very popular flask,, see e.g. D.M. Bailey, Catalogue of Terracottas in the British Museum IV: Ptolemaic and Roman Terracottas from Egypt (British Museum, 2008), pp. 115-124, Pl. 74-88
Acquired 2018 in a US auction house. Ex private collection Stanley Lowell, in this from private collection Walter J. Dilling, acquired in the early 1900s.
Walter J. Dilling was a pharmacologist and professor at the University of Liverpool. His work and passion for collecting antiquities are reflected in a curious way in a hand written note accompanying and describing this flask and stating Alexandria as the place where it was found or acquired. For this note, the professor used a package insert for "Milk of Magnesia 'brand Tablets", as can be read on the reverse side of the small paper sheet.
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